Leaning how many watts is good for a car stereo can completely change the experience you have with audio content while driving.
Even though it initially seems like a less important aspect than the actual brand you’re buying from or other technical details, wattage is absolutely essential in the process of choosing a car stereo that fits your needs.
This article will explain the connection between the number of watts and sound quality, as well as what’s the minimum number needed for a decent audio experience. Enjoy your read!
Connection Between Speaker Watts and Sound Quality
The electrical power of a device is measured in watts, the same applying for stereo systems or amplifiers, which are devices that process sound.
The output of these devices is in direct relationship with their wattage.
When pairing speakers with an amplifier, the power needs to match, otherwise, the speakers will be either underpowered or will get damaged.
The bigger the wattage output, the higher the number of decibels (how loud the sound is) produced.
For instance, around 16 watts produce approximately 102 decibels, which is – for reference – similar to a person shouting something right in your year.
It is recommended to opt for stereos that can produce somewhere around 85 and 110 decibels, depending on how loud you want your music to be.
Mid-priced speakers usually can reach this interval without any issues, but if you’re looking for a very clear sound, opt for sensitive speakers.
These are more expensive, but they will generate the cleanest sound.
Besides wattage, make sure you keep an eye on numbers such as TDH, the Total Harmonic Distortion, which determines the distortion involved in the sound translation process. The lower the TDH, the better – so try looking for speaker systems with a TDH below 0.1%.
Another aspect you should consider is the speaker impedance which tells you how much ohms your stereo will draw.
This is more technical-oriented, but the only thing you should know is that the standard for sound systems is 8 ohms.
Finally, keep an eye on the headroom, which measures what your system can do when faced with very short bursts of powerful sound.
Normally, this is only important for home cinema systems because of the sounds in movies, but if you’re an audiophile, it will matter for you.
How Many Watts is Good For a Car Stereo?
The Standard Factory Number of Watts For Car Stereos
Normally, cars come equipped with a stereo system that has less power than those systems you can find aftermarket.
The explanation is that purposefully built aftermarket stereo systems are fed much more watt power than factory systems so that they can generate a higher quality sound.
The power interval you’ll see in stereo systems is very wide, making the selection quite difficult to handle. This is why you need to take into account more than just the wattage.
Even so, you should know that the standard factory wattage in car stereos is around 10 watts RMS per channel (this is a power figure that refers to the actual power that the stereo system can generate over a longer period of time).
Some stereo systems are intentionally advertised as more powerful through other figures that are deceiving to clients who are not informed, but the RMS power figure is usually the one that matters.
Aftermarket stereos’ power is usually advertised in the form of an RMS range, on the likes of 5-60. The bigger number represents the maximum power the stereo can play at its very best.
If the factory number of watts tops around 10 watts, for a considerably improved sound experience in your car, you should strive for about 40-50 watts per channel.
How Much Power Does Your Car Stereo Needs For a Clean Sound?
As mentioned before, for a very clean sound you’ll have to search a stereo system that uses a certain wattage power.
There are two options in this direction: you either get a factory system upgrade through accessories that are specially designed for your car’s brand and the stereo system’s specifications or you opt for aftermarket speakers that can be fed with the wattage you desire.
Amplifiers can boost the power on your speakers, thus improving the sound quality and even its clarity.
Some amplifiers come with speaker level inputs, so you can just adjust your speaker power as per your wants and requirements.
Now, talking numbers, think about what you expect from your car stereo.
How loud and clear do you want it to be? Amplifiers are great for avoiding sound distortion and to produce a visibly loud, high-quality sound, so you can pair them with your factory stereo or with an aftermarket one for the best result.
The RMS range should match the overall wattage power of your speakers. Thus, we’d recommend opting for around 30 RMS per channel, along with a good amplifier.
To better understand this characteristic, we must explain what exactly the sensitivity of a speaker means as it declared by manufacturers through an example: 2.83V is the power of the amplifier at which measurements are made and is equivalent to the value of 1W (if the speaker impedance is 8 Ohm) or 2W (if the speaker impedance is 4 Ohm); some manufacturers directly specify power at 1W.
We thus have a sound pressure level of 90dB. More precisely, if we amplify these speakers with 1W and listen to them from 1 meter away, the volume heard will be 90dB (approximately the noise level in a moving subway – that is quite high).
Considering the fact that hearing is very precious, it is recommended that listening sessions should not be done at values higher than 85 decibels and if listened louder, it should be occasional only and not for long times.
Speaker Sensitivity & Subwoofers – What To Buy?
Speaker sensitivity represents the ability of the speakers to convert the power received from the amplifier into acoustic energy.
In other words, it shows how loud a speaker sounds at a certain power of the amplifier.
Sensitivity if thus highly influenced by the wattage a stereo sound uses.
Unfortunately, many car owners complain about the accuracy of the sound, especially those that occupy a low frequency (bass).
This disadvantage occurs due to the fact that most vehicles are not equipped with an audio system that includes a car subwoofer. Ideally, opt for a car stereo system that has both speakers, subwoofers, and amplifiers.
A car stereo subwoofer can have 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 channels integrated. Regarding the selection according to the number of channels, it is important to pay attention to the system configuration and the number of speakers in the car.
The power of a car subwoofer is a very important aspect, which you will have to take into account to make the ideal purchase.
The performance and efficiency of a speaker will depend on this feature.
Regarding the amount of power required for a car subwoofer, it should be somewhere between the values of 100 – 250 watts.
In some situations, it can exceed this value, and in terms of selection, it is advisable to take into account the preferences you have.
The power of a speaker is very important because it indicates the maximum power it supports at a constant operating rate, without distortion or damage to the sound (different from RMS per channel).
If you purchase a two-channel subwoofer, then you can connect two accessories. Of course, more speakers can be connected, but the power will be divided, which means that the volume and clarity of the sound will be lower.
To find the best car subwoofer, it is important to keep in mind that each car has different acoustics.
In this sense, to reach the desired level in terms of musical experience in the car, it is important to take into account some important aspects in order to find the optimal purchasing solution.
Extra Tip: Wiring
In the HiFi audio universe, there is a lot of discussion about the importance of power cords. On the pages of cable manufacturers, you can find various explanations of wiring’s influence in an audio system.
Some argue about the electrical characteristics of the materials, others point out how the electricity reaches the devices – either way, it’s advised to take a good look at the stereo sound wiring in your car to make sure that quality isn’t lost.
We hope that you found this article helpful and you managed to gain some direction in terms of what car stereo to buy.
As you may have read before, wattage can truly affect the quality of the sound, and you need to take it into account whenever deciding to invest money into a sound system, regardless of its type. Come back for more similar content on our site